Itumeleng Khune is back between the sticks and ready to lead Chiefs as they try and stay on top of the Premier League table. They have made a great start without him but are glad he's back. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

DURBAN – Ernst Middendorp has lauded Daniel Akpeyi for his professionalism, the Kaizer Chiefs coach expressing delight at how the goalkeeper has handled his relegation to the bench.

The Nigerian shot stopper watched from the sidelines on Tuesday as Amakhosi reclaimed the top spot on the Absa Premiership table courtesy of a 2-0 win at AmaZulu.

Club captain and superstar goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune returned to the starting line-up for the first time in nearly six months following injury.

“I had a long chat with Daniel Akpeyi. He is a very good goalkeeper and he accepted it (that he will be on the bench),” Middendorp explained “Daniel Akpeyi played well in the first four games so it was difficult for me (to relegate him to the bench).”

The German said Khune returning to the starting line-up was always a question of when and never if. “Since 2006, Itu Khune has been in the squad and he is the captain (of the club). It was all about the right timing. It was all about how far he is at training.”

Khune showed very little sign of rustiness as he commanded his box with the authority that has made him the country’s No 1 goalkeeper for a while now. He still displayed that unique talent of being able to swiftly turn defensive situations into attacks and his reflexes seemed as sharp as they were before his injury.

In Khune’s absence, Middendorp started with Bruce Bvuma on Matchday One against Highlands Park but he got injured ahead of the second league match against Black Leopards. Akpeyi took over and hardly put a foot wrong as he commanded his goal so well that Chiefs lost just once via a penalty goal against Polokwane City. He, however, was a true sportsman about the latest development.

“Daniel showed a lot of respect to Itu in his first game today (Tuesday),” Middendorp said.

Now on top of the table with 13 points after six matches, Chiefs look set to pocket the R1.5-million prize for winning the Q1.

To do that they need to remain first after eight matches, a feat Middendorp had no doubt they will achieve even though it is not necessarily their main goal.

“We have a clear target. At the beginning of the season, it is very difficult when you ended position nine in the previous season. It is difficult to go for honours. We want to win each and every game. It might not be possible but we have a very clear target. I’m not worried about Q1 but if it comes, no problem, we will take it.”

Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp speaks to the press after watching his team beat AmaZulu in the Absa Premiership. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Next up for Amakhosi is a clash with Baroka FC at FNB Stadium on Saturday but they have a long list of injuries with Samir Nurkovic, Kearyn Baccus and Siphosakhe Ntiyantiya all walking wounded.

“We have Ntiya out. We have Samir out. We have some other knocks. Buccas also sustained an injury. At the moment it is all about working on a combination for Saturday.”



The Mercury

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